NTRS - NASA Technical Reports Server

Back to Results
Spray-On Foam Insulations for Launch Vehicle Cryogenic TanksSpray-on foam insulation (SOFI) has been developed for use on the cryogenic tanks of space launch vehicles beginning in the 1960s with the Apollo program. The use of SOFI was further developed for the Space Shuttle program. The External Tank (ET) of the Space Shuttle, consisting of a forward liquid oxygen tank in line with an aft liquid hydrogen tank, requires thermal insulation over its outer surface to prevent ice formation and avoid in-flight damage to the ceramic tile thermal protection system on the adjacent Orbiter. The insulation also provides system control and stability with throughout the lengthy process of cooldown, loading, and replenishing the tank. There are two main types of SOFI used on the ET: acreage (with the rind) and closeout (machined surface). The thermal performance of the seemingly simple SOFI system is a complex of many variables starting with the large temperature difference of from 200 to 260 K through the typical 25-mm thickness. Environmental factors include air temperature and humidity, wind speed, solar exposure, and aging or weathering history. Additional factors include manufacturing details, launch processing operations, and number of cryogenic thermal cycles. The study of the cryogenic thermal performance of SOFI under large temperature differentials is the subject of this article. The amount of moisture taken into the foam during the cold soak phase, termed Cryogenic Moisture Uptake, must also be considered. The heat leakage rates through these foams were measured under representative conditions using laboratory standard liquid nitrogen boiloff apparatus. Test articles included baseline, aged, and weathered specimens. Testing was performed over the entire pressure range from high vacuum to ambient pressure. Values for apparent thermal conductivity and heat flux were calculated and compared with prior data. As the prior data of record was obtained for small temperature differentials on non-weathered foams, analysis of the different methods is provided. Recent advancements and applications of SOFI systems on future launch vehicles and spacecraft are also addressed.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Fesmire, J. E. (NASA Kennedy Space Center Cocoa Beach, FL, United States)
Cofman, B. E. (NASA Kennedy Space Center Cocoa Beach, FL, United States)
Menghelli, B. J. (ASRC Aerospace Corp. Cocoa Beach, FL, United States)
Heckle, K. W. (ASRC Aerospace Corp. Cocoa Beach, FL, United States)
Date Acquired
August 25, 2013
Publication Date
May 26, 2011
Subject Category
Spacecraft Design, Testing and Performance
Report/Patent Number
Meeting Information
2011 Space Cryogenics Workshop(Couer d''Alene, ID)
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.

Available Downloads

NameType 20110014400.pdf STI